Artist's Wife Allowed Visit

Chinese authorities arrange the surprise meeting at an unknown place.
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Ai holds a piece of debris after authorities demolished his newly built Shanghai studio, January 11, 2011.
Ai holds a piece of debris after authorities demolished his newly built Shanghai studio, January 11, 2011.

The wife of detained Chinese artist and social critic Ai Weiwei has been allowed to visit him for the first time since his detention at the beginning of April.

Lu Qing received approval for the visit unexpectedly on Sunday, according to Ai's sister Gao Ge.

"It doesn't seem as if he was mistreated like those earlier reports said," Gao said after speaking to Lu about the visit. "It seems as if his health is OK."

"The authorities said they had to do it their way, so that they weren't allowed to talk about the case during their meeting," she said.

"When Ai Weiwei saw Lu Qing, he was quite excited, and he had tears in his eyes as he asked about his mother's health and the rest of the family," Gao said.

State security police visited his Beijing studio on Sunday to pick Lu up, according to a volunteer working there at the time.

"The state security police came to the studio on Sunday to take her to visit Ai Weiwei," said the volunteer, surnamed Liu. "They took her to a place that was unfamiliar to her. I can't really talk about the details," she said.


Ai was detained on April 3 amid one of the harshest crackdowns on Chinese rights activists and dissidents in years.

Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said it was hard to tell from such a short meeting how Ai's case was developing.

"It was just a brief meeting with his wife, very short," Liu said. "It was just so she could ask about his health, so it's hard to tell much about any other aspects [of the case]."

Beijing has said the artist, who has been a vocal critic of the government in the past, is currently under investigation for "economic crimes," shrugging off international pressure for his release.

Lu on Friday had said she feared for Ai's health after such a long period with no news of him.

"I am so worried," Lu said ahead of the visit. "I have been all along. He has high blood pressure and diabetes and he had surgery two years ago."

"We are all very, very worried about his health," she said.

'More relieved now'

Ai's mother Gao Ying said she was relieved at Lu's report following the visit. "I am a bit more relieved now," she said. "I know that my son hasn't been tortured."

Lu's meeting with Aiwhich lasted just 15 minutesis apparently the first since his detention sparked a chorus of criticism at home and overseas.

Now, the family is calling on Chinese officials to formalize any case against Ai, whose detention came amid anonymous online calls for a "Jasmine" revolution inspired by recent uprisings in the Middle East.

Rights groups say dozens of activists, lawyers, and dissidents have been detained, many informally and illegally, with many detainees reporting having been beaten while in custody.

Last week, Ai's supporters released a video to mark the third anniversary of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, a focal point for many of Ai's activities.

Video released

Volunteers at Ai Weiwei's studio said they had released the video in honor of the victims of the May 12, 2008 quake, in which more than 87,000 people were reported dead or missing.

The video consists of harrowing interviews with black-clad parents whose children died in the quake, and who have braved beatings, official harassment, and detentions in an attempt to protest alleged shoddy construction in the quake-hit schools.

Parents of thousands of schoolchildren who died during the devastating quake say they are being harassed by the authorities ahead of the three-year anniversary.

Ai posted the dead children's names, according to their Chinese character stroke order, on his Twitter account in time for the second anniversary last year, which is followed by more than 80,000 people.

He also posted online an audio file more than three hours long in which volunteer netizens from all over China read out the names of the children in a somber protest against the government’s refusal to allow any kind of public inquiry into their deaths.

Sichuan authorities have already jailed one activist, writer Tan Zuoren, after he carried out an independent investigation into the children’s deaths and published it online.

Ai was named recently by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

His detention has drawn criticism from the United States, Australia, Britain, France, and Germany, as well as from Amnesty International and other international rights groups.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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